To the average end user, a website is no different than a web application. It’s an easy mistake to make considering both websites and web apps require internet access, run in browsers, and are written in the same programming languages.
But when it comes to choosing which one is better for business, it’s important to understand that while some of their characteristics overlap, the two are not the same.
In this article we’ll explore the differences between websites and web applications.
A website is a collection of web pages under a single domain. It’s usually very user-friendly, easy to navigate, and can easily be found on search engines like Google. Websites provide visual and text content that users can see and read, but can’t necessarily interact with. So think of websites as a one-way information feed.
Mobile sites are essentially the same, except they’re made specifically for smaller screens for easier navigation.
A web application or web app is a cloud-hosted software program with functionality and interactive elements. Web apps are highly customizable and can perform a wide variety of tasks. They’re cross-platform applications, which means they can run on any OS.
Okay, that might still be a bit confusing. Let’s look at some of their key differences to understand.
Perhaps an easier way to comprehend the differences between websites and web applications is to compare their interactivity with end users.
As mentioned, websites provide visual and text content which readers can only view. Think of a writer’s digital portfolio. What’s presented is usually just information about them and samples of their work for you to view. You can’t change whatever is presented on screen.
On a web app, however, an end user can manipulate the data on the page. Wikipedia is a great example of this functionality. At first glance, you might think Wiki is a website because it’s known as a place to read up on things. However, Wikipedia allows users to not only view but also collaboratively modify its content, making it a web application.
Integration refers to the linking of different applications to form a more complex, engaging, and unified system. While both websites and web apps can be integrated with other software, this is more commonly done with web apps as their complex functions require them to work with other systems.
Think of online retail stores. When you head over to checkout you’re asked to choose an online payment method. The best e-commerce web apps are already integrated with third-party applications that allow users to make payments online via the e-commerce web app. This integration makes online shopping much more convenient for end users – everything can be done via the web app.
On the business end of things, e-commerce web apps can be integrated with a customer relationship management system or CRM. A CRM acts as a repository for valuable customer data like their inquiries, feedback, buying habits which can be used for business analytics.
It should be clear by now that websites are far less complex than web apps. Because of this, their development requirements differ vastly despite both using the same programming languages.
If a website is a better fit for your business, hiring a small web studio is a good option. However, if you decide to add more interactive elements to your website in the future, you’ll need more specialized help.
If your business needs a web application, web app developers are the solution. These experts have specialized skills that are essential in implementing a wider range of functions.
Now that you know the key differences between websites and web apps, you’re probably thinking of a few examples. If you’re having trouble thinking of websites with absolutely zero elements of interactivity, we don’t blame you. Most modern websites will have some web app elements. That is, they’ll have little bits and pieces that end users can interact with. This isn’t really surprising considering consumers crave more immersive experiences online and businesses thrive on customer engagement.
When choosing which is best for you, focus on what your business needs. If you simply want an online space that displays your business’ information, a website is a way to go. But if you want something more interactive, something that keeps users engaged, and something multi-functional that you can integrate with other platforms, web applications are the answer.
Need help developing a web app? Give us a call!